How did actor Sharman Joshi bag a chance to work with Rajkumar Hirani? The answer to that question - three unexpected meetings in the loo. That's exactly how the 30-year-old first met the director of Munnabhai MBBS, and won the role of Raju Rastogi in 3 Idiots.
Says Sharman, "I first met Mr Hirani in a multiplex washroom three years ago. He was there to see the teasers of Munnabhai Chale America and I was there to see a film. We got talking, he told me that he really liked my work and that he had something for me. I waited for him to call, but nothing happened. Then, I met him again in a washroom of another multiplex, and this time, we chatted for 20 minutes. Nothing happened again. Finally, after I met him for the third time in a washroom, Mr Hirani called me to his office, and we signed on the dotted line."
Those three encounters were definitely fortuitous for Joshi. Though he has been part of the film industry for 10 years, and has played interesting characters in movies like Rang De Basanti, Sorry Bhai and Life In A Metro, it's only now, with 3 Idiots becoming a national phenomenon and breaking all records, that he is finally getting truly noticed.
Ask Joshi about the feedback he's received and he says that each film generates different kinds of appreciation. Joshi ranks his roles in Sorry Bhai and Life In a Metro and of course, 3 Idiots, as his favourites. "Even God praised me," says Joshi excitedly, referring to Amitabh Bachchan, who on his blog rated Joshi's interview scene in 3 Idiots as one of the most endearing moments of the film.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Joshi hails from a family of actors - his father Arvind Joshi and aunt Sarita Joshi are well-known theatre actors, his sister ManasiJoshi Roy is a TV actress and brother-in-law Rohit Roy is a director and actor. So it was no surprise that Joshi was always attracted to acting and films. "I had slotted management as a second option just in case acting didn't work out," explains Joshi. "But in college, I started doing inter-college plays and then graduated to professional theatre once my college days were over. Only after I was sure I got favourable reviews did I finalise my decision."
That's when film and theatre actor and director Satyadev Dubey recommended Joshi to Vinay Shukla, the director of Godmother. This was Joshi's first Bollywood role. In swift succession, Joshi did Style, Lajja, Golmaal, Shaadi No. 1, Xcuse Me, Hello, Life In A Metro, Rang De Basanti and Sorry Bhai, which begs the question - why has he rarely worked in a film where he plays the solo lead?
Joshi explains, "My criterion has always been the script. It's wonderful to be part of a film where I am a solo hero, but the script too has to be challenging. I did get offers, but because of the industry's herd mentality, they were similar to say, my role in Style."
Joshi adds, "I am at peace with myself. I am happy with the films I have done and the responses I have received. And I am happy with the pace at which my career is going. I am in no hurry to get anywhere."
ON A ROLE
Next on Joshi's plate is Ramesh Taurani's production Soh Baat Pakki with Tabu, and Allah Ke Bande, a redemption drama about two boys from the slums. "And, post the super-success of 3 Idiots, obviously, a barrage of offers are expected," says Joshi.
With that, he goes back to talking about the film that is keeping him in the limelight. In the movie, Joshi managed to stand out, despite sharing screen time with Aamir Khan and other renowned actors. How did he manage that? "I try and stay true to the grain of the character," explains Joshi. "But playing such a complex character was a cakewalk, one, because of the brilliant script and two, because of a director like Rajkumar Hirani."
He describes Hirani as a simple, compassionate, innocent man and a democratic and brilliant director. "Like in the interview scene, I suggested that I would get emotional about the situation. He advised me otherwise and asked me to look back in a self-mocking way. And that's what worked for the scene."
And finally, did he think that the movie would do so well? Joshi says no. "When I read the script, I knew the movie would be fabulous. But I hadn't anticipated this response. Within four to five days of its release, people were seeing it again and again and that too in a single day. I always critically watch my parts in films. But when I saw 3 Idiots, I was just blown away, teary one moment and laughing the next."
Raju Rastogi, 3 Idiots: I wanted the audience to feel the way Raju feels.
Siddharth Mathur, Sorry Bhai (falls in love with his brother's wife): Could resolve complex scientific challenges but struggled to deal with matters of the heart.
Rahul, Life In A Metro: A go-getter who would stop at nothing to get to the top of the corporate world. But he threw away everything for love.
Sukhi, Rang De Basanti: Wore his heart on his sleeve. The most trustworthy friend one could have.